I’m not normally a superstitious person. I’ve stepped on enough cracks in my life to cripple a major country. I’m partially color blind so who knows what kind of cats are crossing my paths. And the only wood I knock on are doors.
So when it comes to racing, I don’t always eat the same thing beforehand. I don’t have a favorite song that I start each run with. And I certainly don’t have a lucky pair of drawers. But there is one thing that I will always have when I run a race:
my lucky pirate bandana
As with most superstitions, you never notice you have them until something bad happens to you. My very first half marathon was not too long after Halloween and I decided to wear my costume from that year, which was a pirate outfit. My race went so well, I decided to wear it again during my next couple races. That was fun for a bit, but the long sleeves and three-quarter pants were starting to get pretty uncomfortable in the middle of summer. I ditched everything from the costume, but decided to keep wearing the bandana on my head. I always run with a hat even if it’s 90+ outside so wearing a bandana during races is no big deal no matter the weather. It’s also a way for me to mentally gear up for a race as it’s something different from when I’m training.
Fast forward about 2 years and countless races (fine, I could go to my Races and Results page and count them, but I’m a bit too lazy for that). During my biggest, longest, hardest race ever (2015 C&O Canal 100), I decided to swap out my trusty bandana for my normal hat. You see, it was supposed to rain during the race and I wanted to keep the rain off my glasses as much as possible. Nothing is more annoying that having your glasses continually fog up and I thought the hat would work better for me. I honestly never even gave it more than a minute or 2 of consideration. A hat would work better so that is what I went with. Didn’t matter that I had a race streak going with the bandana. Nothing horrendous happened when I dropped the rest of the costume so losing the bandana shouldn’t be a big deal either. Right?
Wrong. By now I’m sure you’ve read my race report. You’ll probably notice that at no place in there do I mention my headgear as a cause for my DNF. That’s because I didn’t even realize that I wasn’t wearing my lucky bandana until after I had already written the report and sent it out to my friends and family. I was mentally reviewing later on why I dropped yet again when I realized that I was wearing a normal hat and not my pirate bandana. My lucky pirate bandana. [head smack] Of course! That’s why I had to drop. All the other “contributing factors” where just a bunch of hooey.
Since that realization, I’ve worn my lucky bandana at each and every race that I’ve done. And only at my races. I don’t wear it on training runs. I don’t wear it around the house. Or out to parties (you know, theoretically, if I was invited to parties). I race in it, wash it, then hang it back up in my closet until the next time I pin a bib on. I don’t want to tarnish or corrupt it by using it outside of its intended purpose. Namely, getting me to the finish line of my races.
This isn’t a magic talisman that promises PRs every time I race. It doesn’t guarantee pain or discomfort free ultras. It doesn’t even keep the sun out of my eyes. But it does get me to the finish line inside the cutoffs. And that’s all the luck one could even hope for.
Have you found your luck yet?